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Cinema Film round-up: May 13, 2022

MARIA DUARTE reviews The Quiet Girl, Father Stu, The Drover’s Wife: The Legend of Molly Johnson and Vortex

The Quiet Girl (12A)
Directed by Colm Bairead
★★★★

SET in rural southern Ireland in 1981, this very intimate yet understated and quietly powerful coming-of-age drama explores child neglect and grief through the eyes of a nine-year-old girl.

Writer-director Colm Bairead’s impressive debut feature is an Irish-language adaptation of the short story Foster by Claire Keegan, which centres on Cait (astounding newcomer Catherine Clinch), one of four siblings, sent away by her dysfunctional and impoverished family to stay with distant relatives over the summer while her pregnant mother deals with the new baby.

With a stripped-back script and minimal dialogue, the film is carried by Clinch’s haunting and soulful performance. With her luminosity and wonderfully expressive eyes, which speak volumes, she captivates you from the first moment she appears on the screen in this, her first acting role.

The drama examines complex family bonds and how both physical and emotional sustenance is key in making the love-starved Cait transform from a quiet and insular child into a brighter, happier and more engaged youngster as she is lavished with much-needed affection and attention by the Cinnsealachs (Carrie Crowley and Andrew Bennett), though at first husband Sean cannot bear to even look at her.

While the couple encourage honesty at all times, Cait discovers their painful secret which sheds much-needed light on Sean’s initial reticence.

It is a beautiful yet heartbreaking film about a neglected child desperate for love — raising the issue of how some people do not deserve to be parents — and who eventually finds it with complete strangers.

In cinemas May 13

 

Father Stu (15)
Directed by Rosalind Ross
★★★

 

AS FAITH-BASED films go, this has to be one of the least preachy but most unbelievable and inspiring as it recounts the true story of boxer-turned-actor-turned-priest Stuart Long and his journey from self-destruction to redemption.

Written and directed by Rosalind Ross, it is raw, honest and surprisingly funny, with Mark Wahlberg — Hollywood actor, Catholic and one of the film’s producers — playing the dreamer and womanising chancer Long, with a great deal of charisma and biting humour.

Initially Long, an agnostic, converts to Catholicism in order to impress Carmen (Teresa Ruiz) a Sunday school teacher who is impervious to his charms, but after surviving a serious motorbike accident he has an epiphany, finding his calling and God to the shock and scepticism of his long-suffering mother (Jacki Weaver) and his loser, estranged father (fellow Catholic Mel Gibson).

Wahlberg, who gained 30 pounds for the role, gives an outstanding and compelling performance as Long air every stage of his struggles, ending in an incurable muscle-wasting disease (which felt one obstacle too far) that only reinforces his vocation and determination to help others, against all the odds.

Though hard to believe, it is a remarkable and uplifting story.

In cinemas May 13

 

The Drover’s Wife: The Legend of Molly Johnson
Directed by Leah Purcell
★★★

FINALLY, a powerful and fierce feminist reimagining of the Western leaves an indelible mark on this impressive revenge debut feature from Leah Purcell.

Adapted from her acclaimed stage play — which she also produced and stars in — Purcell delivers a no-holds-barred tale set in 1893 at an isolated property in the Australian Alps in which pregnant Molly Johnson, already a mother of four, does whatever it takes to protect her children and survive while her husband is away.

Her life is somewhat complicated by the arrival of Yadaka (Rob Collins), an Aboriginal man who, unbeknownst to her, is wanted by the local authorities.

Purcell is absolutely phenomenal as Molly in a powerhouse performance which gives you chills.

Being the first Australian feature film to be helmed by an indigenous woman, it explores feminist, indigenous and first nation issues within the construct of family survival.

Though brutal and unrelenting, it is an insightful and thought-provoking first feature from Purcell which will haunt you long after the credits have rolled.

In cinemas May 13

 

Vortex (15)
Directed by Gaspar Noe
★★★★

IN A volte-face from his previous films, Argentinian director Gaspar Noe hones in on old age and dementia in this heartbreaking drama about an elderly couple's last days.

It stars filmmaker and fellow director Dario Argento aged 80 in his first leading role — and in French — as a film critic with heart problems who is forced to take care of his psychiatrist wife (Francoise Lebrun), who is suffering with dementia. As her condition deteriorates their son (Alex Lutz), a former drug addict battling his own mental health issues, recommends they go into a nursing home for their own safety as his mother is writing her own prescriptions and keeps leaving the gas on.

But his father won’t entertain the idea, even though he cannot cope.

Spurred on by his brush with mortality following a brain haemorrage, Noe’s frank and candid drama is mostly observational, peppered with sparse dialogue completely improvised by the trio, but which is nevertheless totally gripping and heart-wrenching.

As the illness begins to take hold at the start, the screen splits in two — one half shows the mother’s point of view; the other the father’s, which takes getting used to.

For the first 15 minutes without a word uttered the camera keeps track of her as she gets out of bed, gets dressed and leaves the flat — lost in her mind as she wanders confused from shop to shop while simultaneously her husband gets up, makes coffee and then frantically searches for her in the flat and the local area.

It is a compelling but depressing watch as, sadly, that is where some of us will be heading.

In cinemas May 13

 

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